Making the Most of Visits with Someone with DementiaSkip to content

Do’s and Don’t When Visiting Loved Ones with Dementia

Published: Dec 29, 2022. Last Updated: Jan 6, 2023.

Dementia can significantly alter an individual's physical abilities, communication skills, and behavior, which can make it challenging to have meaningful conversations with them. However, it's essential to remember that the person with dementia is still the same person you knew and cared about before their diagnosis. Despite the changes caused by dementia, it is possible to make the most of visits and maintain a strong connection with them.

To maximize the benefits of your visits, here are some tips on how to prepare and some do's and don'ts to follow:

Preparing for A Visit with Someone with Dementia

Although visits from friends and family can mean a lot to the person with dementia, it's crucial to plan ahead to make sure the experience is positive and comfortable for all involved. Here's how you can be prepared:

  1. Research their current stage of dementia. Learn about the different stages of dementia and how it affects a person's communication, behavior, and needs. This can help you to tailor your visit and interactions in a way that is respectful and supportive. For example, if they have difficulty with memory or communication, you may need to use simple and clear language, avoid bringing up past events, or engage in activities that do not require them to remember or communicate.

  2. Discuss the visit with the person's caretaker or family members. If you are not an immediate family member, it is important to talk with the person's caretaker or family members to get a sense of their preferences and boundaries. This can provide valuable insight into what they enjoy, dislike, or find stressful, and can help you to avoid potential triggers or upsetting situations.

  3. Bring along appropriate activities or items to engage them during the visit. This can include items such as a photo album, their favorite music, or a familiar object or game. These activities can provide a sense of comfort and familiarity, and can help to stimulate cognitive and emotional engagement.

  4. Plan for an appropriate length of time for the visit Generally, visits with someone with dementia should be no more than an hour to an hour and a half at a time. Shorter visits may be beneficial for those in the later stages of dementia, as longer visits can become overwhelming or tiresome. Make sure to provide ample breaks or rest periods. Dementia can be exhausting , and it is important to allow them time to rest and recharge in between activities or interactions. This can also help to prevent overstimulation or frustration, which can be detrimental to their well-being.

  5. Bring along a companion or support person to assist with the visit This can be especially beneficial if the individual is prone to agitation or confusion, or if the visit involves a longer duration or more complex activities. Your companion can provide an additional layer of support and reassurance for them.

Do's When Visiting Someone with Dementia

When visiting someone with dementia, it is important to approach the situation with patience, understanding, and empathy. Here are some key do's to keep in mind:

Be patient and understanding

Dementia can affect their ability to communicate and understand, so it is important to give them time to process information and respond. Avoid interrupting or rushing them, and try to stay calm and patient even if the conversation becomes difficult or frustrating.

Use simple and clear language

Dementia can also affect their ability to process complex information, so it is best to use simple and straightforward language when communicating. Avoid using technical or medical terms, and avoid talking too quickly or using complex sentence structures.

Ask open-ended questions

Rather than asking yes/no questions or leading questions, try to ask open-ended questions that encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings. For example, instead of asking "Do you remember when we went to the park last week?" try saying "What did you enjoy most about our trip to the park last week?"

Avoid correcting or arguing

It is common for the one with dementia to have moments of confusion or memory loss, and it is important to respect their experiences and beliefs even if they are not accurate. Avoid trying to correct them or argue with them, as this can cause unnecessary stress and frustration.

Engage in activities or hobbies they enjoy

One of the best ways to connect with someone with dementia is to engage in activities or hobbies that they enjoyed in the past. This can help to stimulate their memory and provide a sense of familiarity and comfort. Bring along items such as a photo album, their favorite music, or a familiar object to help spark their interest and engage them in the activity.

Don'ts When Visiting Someone with Dementia

Here are some things to avoid when visiting someone with dementia:

Don't ignore or dismiss their feelings or experiences

People with dementia may have difficulty expressing themselves or understanding what is happening around them. However, this does not mean that their feelings are not valid. Listen to them and acknowledge their emotions, even if you do not fully understand them.

Don't bring up past events that may upset them

Dementia patients often have difficulty with memory and may become confused or distressed if you bring up past events that they no longer remember or understand. Avoid mentioning past events or experiences that may be upsetting to them.

Don't talk down to them or treat them like a child

Individuals with dementia are still adults and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Avoid using condescending language or treating them like a child. Instead, speak to them in a clear and straightforward manner and allow them to make decisions for themselves when possible.

Don't try to force them to remember things or do things they cannot

People with dementia may have difficulty with memory, concentration, and decision-making. Don't try to force them to remember things or do things that they are unable to do. Instead, be patient and supportive, and offer assistance when needed.

Don't overstimulate them with loud noises or too many visitors

Those living with dementia can easily become overwhelmed by loud noises or too much activity. Avoid overstimulating them by limiting the number of visitors and keeping the environment quiet and peaceful.

Benefits of Visiting Someone with Dementia

Despite the challenges and changes that come with dementia, regular visits can provide numerous benefits for both parties.

Visits can help maintain connections and relationships with the individual, even as their cognitive abilities decline. As dementia progresses, they may struggle with communication and memory, making it difficult to maintain the same level of connection as before. However, regular visits can provide an opportunity for the individual to engage with their loved ones, which can help maintain their sense of identity and connection to the world around them.

Visitation can also provide an opportunity to socialize, explore new interests, and even participate in activities that they once enjoyed. This can help them stay engaged and connected to the world around them. Most importantly, visits can help reduce stress and anxiety for both parties. Seeing a familiar face may be comforting, while providing companionship and support can provide much-needed relief for their family and friends.

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About the Author

Ericka Nicolas

Writer & Researcher

Elder Guide LLC

Ericka Nicolas began her career in the banking industry where she learned the importance of being detail-oriented and well-organized, both of which she applies to her current work as a writer and proofreader. With her vast experience in writing, Ericka is able to produce well-researched and engaging content that appeals to Elderguide's target audience. She was able to provide readers with valuable insights on a variety of topics and ensures that all the information she provides is accurate and up-to-date. She takes the time to carefully study each topic given to her, which allows her to produce truly informative articles. Ericka's passion for writing and her dedication to producing quality content gave way to her goal of helping our readers navigate the complex world of senior living and make informed decisions about their future. Aside from her work at Elderguide, Ericka enjoys spending time with her newly-married husband and their dog, Yari. She loves cooking, traveling, and exploring new restaurants in her spare time.